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You Can’t Learn It From a Book

Brian Buck
230220 You Can't Learn It From A Book
© Scotwork NA

Last week, I was on a call with a prospect who, like many organizations, is seeing their salespeople struggle to deal with client demands. Meanwhile, their procurement team feels embattled by supply chain issues, and there’s an expectation that the entire company needs to do more with fewer resources. All of which is putting pressure on their margins, the value of their deals, and the capacity of their teams. We presented a solution to help them, and after our pitch, he asked, “Why can’t we just read a book?” 

I was surprised by the question. Quite frankly, my initial reaction was, If the problems were easily solved by a book, then why are we talking? On Amazon, there are over 7,000 books about negotiation and more than 100,000 on business improvement — and the list keeps growing. That’s a clear indication that the problems we’re discussing are complex, requiring more than a book to solve them. Don’t get me wrong: books can help bring about awareness, inspire, and serve as reference material. To use a sports analogy, the reality is, if you want to be a better golfer, you don’t read a book — you get out on the course with a pro who knows what they’re doing and put in the work.

At Scotwork, we’re best-known for our negotiation skills-development programs. But we’re also working behind the scenes, helping our clients get more value out of their current deals. (As you can imagine, that’s not something they would broadcast to the other side.) We also work with our clients to develop and document their dealmaking processes, and grow and implement playbooks for the situations their teams face at the negotiating table. What makes this effective is the work put in by all involved, which creates an experience that drives results that no book can replicate.

When my former boss wanted his team to change, he sent us a book to read and then asked us to implement it. We rarely did. Did that make us bad employees? Was the boss wrong for wanting the change? The simple answer is no. This approach failed because there were no new experiences that led us to believe behaving differently would lead to better outcomes. He forgot the experience.

Here are 3 things you can do to make your organization better at negotiating:

Leadership participation. Change happens faster when it occurs from the top down. There’s a difference between “buy-in” and “participation.” Buy-in means they support it. Participation means they’re part of it. Oftentimes, we leaders forget that we’re part of the culture that needs to change. If a leader doesn’t participate in the change, then they run the risk of inadvertently subverting it, which can lead to many unintended consequences, such as the change taking longer or requiring reinvestment to make it stick.

Active support. When people are asked to negotiate in new and different ways, they’ll need coaching and support. Coaching will help with adoption and reinforcement of the skills learned. It’ll also give people the ability to ask questions and be vulnerable as they learn to apply new skills. They’ll then need resources to assist them as they apply their newfound skills in the real world — in particular, on their first few deals so they can apply and then adjust in real time. The more supported they feel, the more likely they’ll be to embrace the new ways of negotiating.

Documentation and system optimization. Organizations are built on systems geared toward creating efficiency and throughput. As an organization develops and implements new negotiation skills, those skills will have an impact on established systems. For instance, a more structured approach to negotiation preparation produces valuable information that can be useful to other departments. How that information is captured and documented is an essential component in organizations getting smarter at every negotiation. 

Depending on your organization and team dynamics, there are other considerations to take into account along your journey to making negotiation part of your DNA. Suffice it to say, while some of this knowledge and practice might be captured in a book, you won’t make the organization better till you roll up your sleeves and work with a pro.


We Can Help Make Your Organization Better at Negotiating.
Are your salespeople struggling to deal with client demands? Is your procurement team feeling embattled by supply chain issues? Are your people overwhelmed by the fact that the company needs to do more with fewer resources? We can help! Drawing on nearly 50 years of real-world negotiating experience, we’ll assist you with getting better deals, saving time, and creating value for all involved — not to mention preserving and even strengthening relationships. Let us partner you with one of our advisers, ensuring that you’ve got the broadest view of your deal.

Talk to one of our experts today.

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